This is a section from A Beginners Guide to Woodworking: Helping New Woodworkers Make Better Projects, which is available on Amazon. Over the next month, you will be able to read the entire book, and I hope that you like it enough to get tour own copy. Enjoy.
Make What You Love
Make what you love, and you will love what you make. It’s the best way to experience woodworking, and it’s also one of the best ways to have a good enough experience with the craft that you keep on learning.
Also, if you plan on selling what you make, it can be a real treat to make what you want to make and sell that to people who also love to buy what you make.
I typically don’t take custom orders anymore. It’s rare when I do, but they are usually small and easy to accomplish. The reason is that most of the time custom orders are not any fun to make.
They are not what I am interested in making, and therefore are not as enjoyable of a project. While it’s a good thing to make what your customers want you to make, you can also do well making things that you like and then selling them afterwards.
When you make what you love, and sell what you make, you are ensuring that your hobby remains interesting, and that you will always enjoy what you are working on. As you make changes and grow in your craft, the product changes with you.
If you are not planning on selling what you make, making what you love is still important. Nobody starts a hobby because they don’t like it. However, sometimes people get stuck making things for others that they don’t really enjoy, and it can sometimes burn them out on woodworking in general.
As you decide what to make, take a moment and make sure that it’s what you are really interested in. You can tell most of the time, because it will give you an excited feeling, and you will want to rush out into the shop and start the project.
That’s one way to know that you are making something you truly want to make, and it will help you love the craft longer.
There is More Than One Way
No matter what anyone tells you, there is more than one way to do nearly everything in woodworking. It is a shame that some woodworkers are so dogmatic that they only think you can do things one way, otherwise it’s wrong.
That’s not the case. In reality, there are lots of ways to accomplish basic processes, and they produce the same results in most cases.
As long as that you are doing it safe, you can find lots of creative ways to accomplish the same task. That doesn’t make them wrong, it makes them different. Besides, if nobody can tell in the final product then it’s not really worth arguing over.
There are a lot of tools that can be used to perform the functions of other tools safely. Knowing what your tools can do allows you to get the most from them without buying more.
For example, a router can be used as a jointer, and so can a thickness planer. If you have either of those tools in your shop, then buying a jointer is redundant. It’s not the traditional way to do it, but it’s a safe and effective way.
Also, woodworking is a lot more fluid than many people make it out to be. Just look at a finishing schedule and you will see what I mean. Some people publish very intense finishing schedules, and those can scare new woodworkers away.
If you are looking for a high end or very specific look, then you may have to follow those directions or something like them. However, if you are just searching for a nice looking and protective finish, there are several which are super easy to apply.
They can also be applied several ways, and each of them will produce a good looking finish.
As you learn about woodworking, take in as much as you can but remember that you still have a brain and you can do it differently if you want to. When you show others how to do things, keep that in mind as well. It’s important to your journey and your discovery process.
When there is only one way to do something, it creates an environment where the answer is hard to find. It also makes everything a real challenge in the beginning.
If you understand that there are several right ways to do just about everything in woodworking, you will have a much easier time finding the help you need. It will also be a lot less discouraging finding your answer.
You are going to meet a lot of people with your new hobby, and not all of them are going to feel the same way about woodworking. Most are going to understand that you can do things several different ways, but some are going to be more negative about it. It’s ok, just let them say their piece and move on.
You are not going to change someone like that, and it’s not worth arguing with them as a beginner. Learn what you can from the exchange, because there is always something you can learn, and then move on.
Take the good from what they taught you, combine it with something else you already know, and keep your project moving forward on your own terms.
Patience is a Powerful Tool
Of all the tools you have, patience is your most powerful when it comes to woodworking. In the beginning, there is a lot to learn. Those who can stop themselves from moving forward blindly and do a little research on an unfamiliar step will end up with far better projects in the end. They will also learn more, and progress faster.
It’s amazing how many people feel the need to rush through a hobby. It’s a hobby, not a job. The whole point of a hobby is that it brings you joy, and is something you love doing to take your mind off other things.
If you feel the need to rush through your woodworking, it may not be the hobby for you.
There is going to be so much to learn as a new woodworker that you should accept the fact that there are going to be lots of stoppages during your first several projects. Something that will appear simple in the future will not be simple at all as a beginner.
You will need to be able to resist the urge to just keep on marching forward and be able to stop for a research break.
For example, you might be making a project and it calls for a dado. If you are brand new, you may not know what a dado is, how to make one, or what tool you even need. That’s ok.
The important thing is being able to stop and do a little looking for the information you need. This requires patience, and if you can make yourself stop when you need to, your projects are going to turn out a lot better than if you can’t. Also, you will be able to proceed a lot safer too, because you will know the right way to complete the step.
In the dado example, hopefully the book you are working with is well written enough that it doesn’t just say “create a 1/2” dado that is 1/4” deep and 12” from the top end of the board.” Directions like that are found in more advanced books, because someone reading that after having worked with wood for a while already knows a couple ways to create that dado.
As a newer woodworker, you should search for books that explain the steps more, and show you how to make a dado on either the table saw, a hand router, or a router table. Either way, you need to have patience to look into those terms and find their definitions.
Where some people fall short in their patience is when they think the answers are going to be hard to find. The truth is that most woodworking for beginners is very common, and lots of people have published answers online that are easy to search.
You may struggle with the terminology at first more than anything, but the answers are out there in the vast majority of cases.
When in doubt, just start looking. One of the first things you can do to increase your level of patience is just believe that the answer is out there. Once you find a few of them you will believe more, but have the belief and you will be much better off for it.
When you start out with a strong belief, it will be far less frustrating to leave a project and spend time searching online for an answer. The last thing you want is the simple act of having to look causing you to lose patience and stop the project.
Patience is very important for a number of reasons, but the most important is that patience and consistency are tied together in most instances. People that are able to be patient are also able to be consistent, which will help you quite a bit as you learn all about woodworking.
A person that can learn something new daily, and practice something daily is going to advance themselves farther and faster than anyone else. Patient people are not worried about the pace of the project. They are only concerned with doing it right, doing it safe, and making sure they understand what they are doing.
In order to be more patient, you need to worry less. If you are not the type of person that worries, then you are one step ahead. If you are, then try to not allow woodworking to be the source of worry.
You are not the first person to encounter this problem, or stumble on the step you are struggling with. There are hundreds of thousands of people that have gone through the exact same thing as you have, and the ones with patience got through safely to the other side.
Don’t worry. Have patience, and do not proceed to the next step until you have fully and satisfactorily completed the step that you are on. When you can do that, you will have mastered patience, and you will turn out far better projects.
Trust in the fact that the answers are out there, and all you need to do is find them. Once you do, you will be able to return to your project and complete the step or process successfully.
This is the difference between a good looking and a great looking project. A woodworker with patience will always come out on top, because they know that waiting to do it right makes all the difference.
It sounds crazy, but it’s true. If you slow down, you will actually get done faster. People that rush through their projects tend to make more mistakes. Those mistakes add time to the build, and end up making the project take longer than it would have if you just slowed down a little.
I used to be horrible at this. I was really a nervous woodworker in the beginning, and I thought that the faster I got to the end of a project the faster I would figure out if it was a success or failure.
The whole time I was thinking that at least when this project falls apart I will not have wasted a lot of time on it. This was a horrible way of thinking, but I was so convinced that if I just slammed through the steps I would get to the end and wouldn’t have to worry anymore.
Obviously this thought process lead to a ton of failed projects. I spent so much time trying to cut corners, speed up the process, and shave time, that I didn’t really enjoy anything I was doing.
I also ended up making things take far longer than they should have. The skipped steps and cut corners all came back to bite me in the end steps, and those seemingly little things I left out all ended up being very important.
I was also guilty of applying one super thick coating of finish thinking that it would dry faster. It doesn’t, and in fact it takes longer and sometimes never dries at all. This was yet another way I thought I could cut corners.
Through every project that I modified, skipped steps, or just did it my way, I ended up with problems. Either the final look was awful, the pieces didn’t fit, or the project didn’t work like it was supposed to. All of these failed projects were simply because I could not slow down.
I don’t know when it happened, but I stopped caring about the time something took and just started having fun making things. Once that happened, and I slowed down, I was able to turn out really nice looking projects on the regular with very few issues along the way.
Some issues still came up, and they always will, but I became much better at addressing them right away rather than skipping them and hoping they didn’t come back to haunt me later
The cost of rushing is making mistakes. When you make a mistake, you add time to the build. You take the three seconds it would have taken you to double check a measurement, and turn it into several minutes of cutting a new board and making it fit.
For the cost of a few seconds, you can end up paying with several minutes or more.
Don’t rush. Slow down, and do the steps as they are intended to be done. Don’t think that a single thick coat of finish is better than four thin coats, and don’t skip steps that you don’t think are important. If they were not important, the author would not have put them in the book.
If you slow down, you will actually get done faster, because you will make less mistakes, have less things come back to bite you, and end up not wasting time repeating steps over again. This may seem like the slow road, but in the end it’s the fastest road.
Build a Woodworking Library
One of the best things that you can do as a new woodworker is to start building a personal woodworking library. This will end up being a lifelong project as long as you are interested in woodworking, but you need to start on it early. A woodworking library is your personal reference for all things woodworking.
I am a huge fan of books. I have hundreds of them, and this is the sixth that I have written. My personal woodworking library is a gigantic reference for me, and has helped me solve a lot of problems that the internet has not been able to.
Sometimes, it’s easier to pick up a book on inlay and solve your problem than try to find the answer online.
Depending on the type of woodworking that you are getting into, pick out books that are interesting, and that teach you about the craft. It will be natural to buy books at first anyway, so buying the type that teach you about the project you intend to make is a perfect start.
If you are looking to be an unplugged cabinet maker, start out with a few good books and begin reading them. Just like that, you will have your first few volumes for your woodworking library.
Once you have your initial books, start looking at things that are closely associated with your primary craft and find additional books. These fringe projects are still related, but they are not exactly the same type of project you are creating.
For example, if you are into making guitars, a couple closely related topics are inlay work, bending wood, and electronics. These books are not about making guitars, but they are helpful in the pursuit.
Nearly all guitars are inlaid, the acoustic guitars have bent wood sides, and all electric units have components that need to be wired up. Having those books around makes it a quick matter to figure out something about the guitar.
You can keep on repeating this cycle as you collect more and more books for your library. As you progress in your woodworking, you will naturally fall into several different types of projects.
Each of these will have books associated with them, and they will also have secondary books that are related. Going through this cycle over and over is the primary way that a library is built.
For those of you that are interested in bulking up while you are doing the slow and go approach, there are some options for you. One thing that I really like doing is going into second hand book stores.
Not only will you find deals, but you get a selection that you cannot find many times in a regular book store. Plus, shopping the clearance section in a used book store is an even better deal.
There have been times that I left the used book store with over a dozen woodworking books, each of them costing me no more than a dollar.
They were on a wide range of topics, some of which I was not even sure I would be really interested in learning, but they were only a dollar each so it was worth the gamble. Stocking up like this can help build your woodworking library rapidly.
You are still going to end up adding books as you pick up new projects. Those books are going to be the core of your library. The books you find on a deal are many times going to be different, but still part of woodworking, and still useful in their own way.
You may even find books that are cheap, but also cover your main projects. When you do, make sure to buy them.
When you read your first book, the information just explodes from the pages. Everything is new, so everything you read is a revelation. As you learn more, and read more, you will find that subsequent books offer less and less of a bang.
However, there is always at least one nugget in every book that you read. It may be hidden deep inside, but there is always something to learn from every book.
A core aspect of the woodworking library is being a standing reference for you. The other core aspect is that you need to actually read the books. Now, you don’t have to read them from cover to cover.
That’s not realistic, especially if you go on a buying frenzy and come home with twenty books. However, you do need to at least page through them and read the parts that jump out.
Skim all of your new books in the store briefly in order to see if they cover something you are interested in learning. Once you buy them, make it a point to go through them and read the highlights, as well as any areas that grab your attention.
You will learn quite a bit just by reading a little from your books each day. As little as twenty minutes can be all the difference, and you can accumulate a lot of education over time.
A woodworking library can be a lifelong personal reference that you can go back to when you have questions or need guidance in your craft. Fill it with books that interest you, and others that advance your main craft in a positive way.
After that, find deals on books to build your library, and you will always have material to learn from.
Part 4 – Wrap Up
I hope you liked Part 4 of A Beginners Guide to Woodworking: Helping New Woodworkers Make Better Projects. As you can see, this is a different kind of beginner woodworking book, and I encourage you to get a copy for yourself so you have it all in one place.
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